Wide boy: Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson shows his ample girth in Barbados this week
Doctors have discovered that developing a pot belly in middle age dramatically raises the risk of Alzheimer’s in later life.
Men and women with large stomachs in their 40s are three times more likely to suffer serious mental decline when they reached their 70s.
Specialists are not sure why expanding waistlines affect the brain, though fat packed around the abdomen is “metabolically active”, unlike fat on the hips.
It releases more of the acids that raise heart disease risk, along with factors that increase blood pressure and blood sugar.
Other research has already linked obesity to vascular diseases which play a role in dementia, partly through hardening of the arteries.
In the latest study, U.S. scientists measured levels of abdominal fat in 6,583 people aged 40 to 45 in California in the 1960s and 1970s.
After 36 years, 16 per cent of the volunteers had been diagnosed with dementia.
Those who had the highest amount of waistline fat in their 40s were almost three times more likely to have developed dementia than those with the lowest amount of fat.
The study published today in the medical journal Neurology does not detail the healthiest level of waist circumference.
But doctors recommend that men have a girth no bigger than 40 inches and women should be no more than 35 inches.